Ban to Meet UN Panel Probing Flotilla Raid

New York, Aug 10 (DPA) The four-member panel appointed to investigate the Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May was to hold its first meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Tuesday.

Ban said Monday he would meet with the panel at UN headquarters to discuss its mandate, which he said includes examining investigations already carried out on the Israeli military interception of the Turkish-led flotilla, which killed nine people.

The UN chief also quashed a rumour, first published by an Israeli newspaper, that he had agreed to keep Israel's military forces off limits in the inquiry.

"There was no such agreement behind the scenes," Ban said when asked by reporters whether there was a deal with the Israeli government to open the UN inquiry.

"Their main work will be to review and examine the reports of the national investigations and liaise with the domestic authorities," Ban said. "Whatever is needed beyond that, they will have to discuss among themselves in close coordination with the national government authorities."

Israel's Haaretz newspaper claimed last week that the UN panel would not be allowed to interview the Israeli military, which intercepted the flotilla in a high-drama action off the coast of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli government last week immediately welcomed the launch of the UN panel while Turkey withheld all reaction.

Israel has also conducted its own military investigation into the incident.

A Turkish diplomat said Ankara, which is one of the 15 UN Security Council members, will ask the UN panel to brief the body directly because it was the council that called for the full investigation and demanded that it be transparent and independent. Ban, who formed the panel on the council's instruction, said the panel will report back to him by mid-September.

Turkey will assume the council's presidency in September.

The panel will find and review the facts and circumstances that led to the violence on board one of the ships, and then decide what else is needed to fully investigate the incident, Ban said.

"The panel has a robust mandate to examine and identify the facts, circumstances and contexts of the incident as well as to recommend measures to avoid future incident," Ban told a news conference.

It is headed by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer and outgoing President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia, who will co-chair the investigation. The other members are Ozdem Sanberk of Turkey and Joseph Ciechanover of Israel.

Sanberk has served as ambassador to Spain, France, Britain and Germany, and Ciechanover is an expert on financial and security policy.

The incident nearly severed decades-old diplomatic ties between Turkey and Israel, two allies in the difficult Middle East region. The nine people killed when Israeli forces stormed the flotilla included eight Turkish nationals and one Turkish American.

In addition to the UN inquiry panel, which was called for by the UN Security Council, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva has also appointed a three-member "independent international fact-finding mission" to examine whether the raid violated international law.


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Title: Ban to Meet UN Panel Probing Flotilla Raid

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